Category Archives: kimba

Avatar and the Legend of Korra

Those who know me well know that I struggle with insomnia. Last year when I purchased an iPhone, coupled with the insomnia, I started to develop a bad habit – watching entire runs of TV shows while I sat awake in bed. After I had finished up “Nip/Tuck,” I asked on Twitter what folks thought I should watch next.

Other than things I had already seen, I got all the usual stuff thrown at me like “Buffy,” “House” and “Babylon 5.” Sigh. Friend and Vidcast partner Allison made a suggestion that at first I thought was odd – “Avatar The Last Airbender.” I’m not much of an anime guy. Other than the old old school stuff like “Speed Racer” and “Kimba,” the only anime I’ve ever been into was “One Piece.” But I respect Allison’s opinion a lot, despite appearances on the Vidcast, so I gave it a try.

I was more than surprised, I was blown away. I was introduced to a fantasy world in which some people have the ability to ‘bend’ the elements, in other words, to control the earth, the air, the water, and the fire. One being, the Avatar, has the ability to bend all four, and is basically proclaimed the savior and leader of people by example. In this world, the Avatar has been absent for over a hundred years and is released from an icy tomb. Once free, he must finish his training and grow up. The young boy Avatar and his friends together defeat the Fire Empire that has ruled much of the world with a fascist regime.

Along the way, I fell in love with the characters, the story, both episodic and overarching, and the beautiful backgrounds and animation. It is an amazing series that I can not heap enough praise upon. I was mesmerized and devoured well over fifty episodes in just under two weeks. Yeah, it was that good. But then it was over.

Imagine my surprise recently when I learned that Nickolodeon, the network who made “Avatar,” was working on a sequel by the same folks. I was thrilled. Several weeks ago “The Legend of Korra” began airing. The story picks up almost a century later. The Avatar has brought a new age to the world, one of prosperity and enlightenment. Republic City is the capital of much of the world, a world in the midst of a cultural and industrial revolution. Into this turn of the century steampunk world of Republic City comes Korra the spunky new Avatar in training.

The creators could have gone the easy route, a rehash of the original series, a proven formula that worked, but they went different. This is a whole new spectrum of the concept. Korra is in a cityscape, she’s a bending athlete, and the world is in upheaval between the benders and the non-benders. Much like “Avatar” before it, I love this show, and can’t recommend it enough. This is an amazing show. Watch it.

8 Man

I’m giving away my age with this one. What the hell, I’ll come right out with it, I’ll be 45 next week. Yeah, I’m effing old. Anyway, when I was barely old enough to walk or read I also started watching television, thus beginning a destructive habit that lasts to this day.

There were certain cartoons that I vaguely remember, but recall as being good, but never saw again until decades later. There were “Gigantor,” “Kimba” and “Astro Boy,” both of which I had little memory of but when I saw them again decades later I found my initial reaction was fairly dead on. These were excellent anime that still hold up and are as entertaining to me now as they were then.

There was also another Japanese cartoon among them that I vaguely recalled, but never saw again. This was called “Tobor the Eighth Man,” but my foggy young brain remembered it as “8 Man,” which ironically was the actual Japanese name for the hero and the show. Legend (and fact) has it that the reason we’ve never seen this again in the States is that 8 Man gets his powers from smoking cigarettes. I’m unsure whose idea this was for a children’s TV show, even in 1963, but come on, really? And furthermore, why would a robot smoke?

I finally got to see a few episodes on a DVD called Cartoon Crazys: Comic Book Heroes, thank you, NetFlix. Sadly, it does not hold up as well as the others I mentioned. The tale of a police detective murdered by criminals whose mind is put into the body of a robot is intriguing yet done with the simplistic overtones of a standard American cartoon, rather than a Japanese anime.

Frequently 8 Man is referred to as the precursor to Robocop, and an original concept in itself. This is not necessarily true. It should be noted that in 1942 DC Comics published the adventures of Robotman, a robotic crimefighter with a human brain, created by Jerry Siegel of Superman fame. Either way, it’s still fun. Ralph Bakshi worked on these translations and his sly hand can be heard in lines like “Why is this sign in Japanese?” commenting on the kanji characters throughout the cartoon. Like I said, fun.

“Tobor, the Eighth Man” is worth a look, if for nothing other than nostalgic reasons. And remember, kids, don’t smoke!

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Astro Boy Trailer

Astro Boy, or Mighty Atom as he was known in his native Japan, ushered in the anime age for many here in America.

In the early 1960s the classic Tetsuwan Atomu manga by the genius Osamu Tezuka was brought to animation in Japan and quickly sold to NBC in the US. The series’ success quickly paved the way for “Gigantor,” “Kimba” and “Speed Racer,” and changing animation forever.

There have been more than a few manga and anime series of Astro Boy, and even a rare and very hard-to-find live-action movie, and now Imagi Animation Studios, a Japanese-American collaboration, is readying a new CGI Astro Boy film for theatres. Here’s the trailer:

Interesting. Is it me, or is it just not Astro Boy unless he’s barechested? Either way, it looks great, and has a rather impressive voice cast. I’m looking forward to it.

Astro Boy hits the big screen in October 2009.